Did you originally start singing because you thought one day you'd have the perfect voice? No. You started because you LOVE singing. Did you practice today because you planned to get frustrated? No. You practiced because you CARE deeply about your voice. Did you go to that audition so that you'd hate yourself if you didn't get the part? No. You went because you thought THIS might be your next project. Did you share your gift so that you could become an idol? No. You shared your gift so that you could be a BLESSING to your listeners. Did you become a successful singer so you could obliterate the competition? No. You became successful because you LOVE singing. Just like singing has always loved YOU.
What does it mean to make ACTIVE Acting Choices in a song? It means seeking what you can PLAY, before seeking what you can FEEL. Take the song "Yesterday" by The Beatles. "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they're here to stay". It might be very tempting to seek a sad or nostalgic feeling about how things were "yesterday". This might be "emotional", but it gives you absolutely NOTHING to act. Instead, what if you looked for "yesterday" as a way to keep believing for tomorrow? What if it were a way to keep your love alive? What if it were a way to convince your love to reconsider? These choices would give you a lot of ACTIVE things to play as a singer. Approach your songwork seeking for what you can act NOW! If you don't, you'll be onstage awkwardly searching for some emotion that happened "yesterday".
How often do you COMPLIMENT other singers? It's easy to get wrapped up in competition and trying to make a name for yourself as an artist. But, true Artists appreciate all the beauty around them - even if it's being made by someone else. As Artists, we should be able to genuinely appreciate the work of others without having to compare it to our own. Even when we're comparing ourselves to other voices as a learning tool, we still need to be able to step back and simply ENJOY other singers! Valuing and encouraging fellow vocalists will keep you focused on singing as an art instead of a contest. With this approach, every singer truly wins!
Get in a good RELATIONSHIP… with the Composer! Often as artists, we're very focused on bringing our own unique sound and interpretation to a piece of music. However, in the process of trying to offer our own artistry, we often forget how much has already been done for us. Why did the composer write this song? Why were these specific notes, intervals, and rhythms chosen? Why did the lyrics have to be these lyrics and not something else? Remember that composers are gifted and soulful artists just like you. When you consider what THEIR soul is saying in the song, then go back and add what YOUR soul wants to say. Your solos will have DOUBLE the artistic potency! You'll even find that your craft feels a lot easier whenever you're singing these divine duets. Two is better than one!
Atten…TION! Standing at attention with "perfect" posture can conjure images of rigid, tight muscles constricted in a frozen state - not the ideal conditions for singing. Great singing requires "tension" to be sure, but tension that's supple and ready to move. Imagine your singing posture NOT as a "set" position, but instead as a combination of energies moving in opposing directions. For instance, let your spine have an upward momentum out of the crown of your head AND a downward motion into the floor. Or, keep your ribcage and abdomen expansive AND free to move inward. Keeping your posture at ease AND intentionally in motion will help keep your singing free and agile. Don't let your posture command a tension. Let it command Attention!
Can a singer sound DARK and also NASAL at the same time? Why YES! And, in fact, this skill is transformative for the voice. Normally, when we sing with nasal resonance, the Larynx wants to rise and the sound wants to brighten. However, it is possible to keep a low Larynx while maintaining nasal resonance. To find this coordination, place one hand gently on your Larynx to feel that it's dropping as you make a deep, dark, and rich sound. Place the other hand gently on your nostrils to feel the vibrations. If you feel both at the same time, then you've successfully blended these resonances! Although this blend may sound a bit bizarre to you at first, you are now experiencing your voice's MAXIMUM resonance capabilities! Congratulations!
Try a phrase used for Speech Coaching: "I ate an apple in an igloo." Separate the words as you speak and put your fingers against your larynx. Feel how the air and vibrations stop and start between each word? This is a common occurrence with sounds that begin with vowels. They often cause GLOTTALS - which are abrupt vocal cord closings. While Glottals can be effective in singing when they're controlled, in SPEAKING you may want to limit how often they occur. Try linking each word to it's preceding word just like you would when singing a legato phrase. "Iyadeanapplinanigloo." Unless you want to emphasize a particular word, you can always elide words together. This allows continuity of breath - making your speaking voice sound and feel calmer and healthier.
These days Opera isn't as popular as it once was, but it certainly ain't over! While it's a myth that classical training will make you skillful at singing other styles of music, don't neglect at least SOME classical work in your technique practice. What does this mean? Learn to sing with lower larynx positions. Know how to sing every note with vibrato. Cultivate your Head Voice. Build the stamina for long legato phrases. Master your breath support and dynamic control. Experience how your voice can sing on pure vowels. Adding all of these elements to your technique practice will make you a better singer overall. You might even try out an Aria or Art Song for extra enrichment. Or, if you're really inspired you might even buy a ticket to go and see an Opera! Chances are it will greatly expand your horizons.
We usually think of our ears as information RECEIVERS. But, really they GIVE just as much information to the voice as they get. Your ears and voice are part of the same neurological loop. So, changing what you hear changes how you sound. In fact, the voice can only produce what the ears can hear! This is known as the Tomatis Effect, named for Dr. Alfred Tomatis, a pioneer in music therapy who showed how the ear "builds, organizes, and nourishes the nervous system." How does this apply to you? Incredible singers HEAR incredible singers! To be a top-notch vocalist, it's critical to seek out the vocalists who are pushing the boundaries of vocal limits. Instead of your ears always listening to your VOICE, it's time for your voice listen to your EARS!
GRRRRRUNT! Does your singing ever feel like lifting a HEAVY OBJECT? This feeling often occurs when singers sing too loudly in Chest Voice or Chest Dominant Mix, or when too much Glottal Resistance is used. One way to shed some vocal "weight" is to develop a "light" and "flowy" Head Voice and then drag it DOWN. Start with a note that is HIGHER than the Chest Voice notes you are struggling with. Slide down from the lighter gear to the stronger. If there's a large crack or flip as you slide, then your Chest and Mix are likely too heavy. See if you can make the transition as seamless as possible. If you do, your voice will soon feel more SVELTE than ever!
How is your Repertoire DIET? Is it balanced and healthy or is it only vocal Junk Food? The songs we sing have a direct effect on our vocal growth, coordination, and health. If, for example, we only ate food that we enjoyed the first time we tasted it, our diets would probably consist of chocolate ice cream and pizza. But, we would miss out on healthy foods that we can later come to love and appreciate for their benefits. In the same way, it's important that you sing the songs you LOVE. But, it's also important to sing the songs that you NEED. Some songs can be advantageous for our vocal growth while others hinder our development. Consider what qualities your voice is missing and be sure to find Repertoire that benefits you in those areas. Strike a balanced Repertoire DIET and you'll grow big and strong vocally!
When a guitar or piano wakes up in the morning, it feels pretty much the same way it did before. But, our vocal instrument is different. Each day our bodies change depending on how we've been treating ourselves. It's easy to think of the voice as something separate from the body, but really it's entirely integrated with our overall health. Stress, sleep, diet, illness, hydration, and travel all can affect our instrument. Put yourself to the test! Try taking a week to treat yourself like GOLD! Exercise and stretch daily. Eat foods that you know your body needs. Take time to laugh, smile, and breathe. Get a few extra ZZs. Record yourself at the beginning of the week and at the end of the week. The results will show you just how much more your voice is willing to do for you when you do something nice for your voice. Be healthy. Sing healthy!
How do your notes END? The way we finish a phrase is called an OFFSET. Offsets can often affect the rest of the phrase more than we think. Are you holding the note as long as it's supposed to be held? Are you holding it TOO long? Notice the qualities of your Offset. Does the note get softer and fade out? Maybe you flip registers or your vowels get rounder as you reach the end of your phrase. Alternatively, maybe the notes get cut off sharply with a little kick of breath. All of these qualities are just fine if used in the right contexts. However, if you find yourself struggling with a particular song or phrase, pay attention to how the phrase ends. The problem may be hiding there. As a wise man once said - all's well that ENDS well!
Should you be SELECTIVE in your Auditions? Well, that actually depends on where you are in your career. Artists just starting out can benefit from Auditioning for any and all things they MIGHT be right for. Who knows? You may think you're wrong for a project, but end up singing and performing in a piece that you never dreamed of! Plus, when you're starting out, your Auditioning will need lots of PRACTICE. However, as your career develops, it's important that you become more selective. Make sure that you're only auditioning for projects that you're truly right for and that you would WANT to do. This helps you build your "brand" as a performer and assures that you won't be wasting anyone's time by turning down projects that you book. Take a moment to consider how selective you need to be at this point in your career when it comes to your Auditions!
Practice makes perfect. Sure. But, it can also drive you NUTS! There are so many technical, stylistic, and musical elements to focus on - it's not always easy to know what to do next. Or, perhaps you end up practicing only the things you do well. Creating a Practice Plan can save a lot of time and frustration. First, figure how frequently you can practice and for how long. Vocal Practice doesn't need to be long to be efficient. Even 15 or 20-minute increments can help you maintain focus and manage your time more effectively. Try labelling these increments with what you want to use the time for: "Resonance", "Agility", "Range", "Songwork", etc. This will be time better spent than an hour of unfocused energy and scattered objectives. Make a plan that helps your singing progress like it should!
There is an enormous amount of confidence that comes from playing a role that you've performed numerous times. Or, from performing an audition piece that you use on a consistent basis. But how do you keep your acting FRESH? One great way is to take a deliberate and disciplined approach to your BREATHING. In rehearsal, try taking a breath after a different word each time you read a line. This will change the rhythm of your speech. The rhythm of your speech will then change the meaning of the line. This will have an effect on your gestures and body language that support the line. Your acting will become richer in nuance and subtlety just from the breath alone. You can literally BREATHE new life into each and every character you play - even characters you've played many times before!
Experiment with the BRIGHT and DARK acoustic qualities of your voice! It's an exercise in balancing the Formants (resonances) of your vocal tract. By lowering your LARYNX, you will notice some darker sounds and by raising it you will hear the opposite. The TONGUE is another aspect to play with. Raising it like in the EE Vowel will brighten your sound and lowering it like in the AH vowel will darken it. Finally, the LIPS play a role as well. Puckered lips darken your tone, whereas spread lips brighten it. All of these elements happen very rapidly when we sing. So, it's important to take some time to explore each of these sonic ingredients to master your acoustic possibilities!
Do you need a REASON to sing? No. But, if you think about it, you certainly have one. Or many! The Reasons people sing and express themselves through song are limitless. Each Reason is as unique as each person. Identifying the Reasons behind your singing is a powerful step toward becoming a True Artist. It helps you find song repertoire that speaks to you. It helps you perform from a place of authenticity since nobody in history will ever communicate through song exactly like you do. It helps you to feel grounded in yourself when the world tries to make you something other than beautiful YOU. So, every now and again, make sure you remember the REASON why you are doing this. It will guide your way. Like it always has.
It's time for your Alignment CHECKLIST! Follow these 5 Steps to great posture and alignment for your singing. FIRST - distribute your weight evenly between both feet on the floor. SECOND - lengthen your spine and your neck. THIRD - allow your shoulders to fall away from your ears. FOURTH - slightly tilt your tailbone and widen your lower back. FIFTH - inhale and expand your ribcage and low abdomen. By going through this simple and easy Checklist before you practice or perform, you will always be able to guarantee that your body is in it's optimal position. Great alignment? CHECK!
Our bodies may appear symmetrical, but life gives each of us plenty of ASYMMETRY. Carrying a bag on one shoulder may make you lean to one side or tense up one shoulder. An injury may lead you to favor one side or the other. If you play a sport, one of your arms or legs may be stronger than the other. We can EMBRACE our unique asymmetry. However, when you're singing, try to balance out your posture. Stand on both feet equally. Square off your hips and shoulders. Make sure your body isn't tilted one way or the other. Otherwise, you can actually end up favoring one vocal fold over another or causing vocal limitations of many kinds. Symmetrical posture is singing-friendly posture!
Have you FOUND YOUR SOUND? Many singers doubt whether they have found "their voice" or "their style". In reality, though, "your sound" is as simple as the CHOICES you make. As an exercise, pick a common song with a simple melody. Start by singing the song as plainly as you can. Then, change it up! Experiment with all the stylistic tools out there: dynamics, sustains, rhythm changes, word emphases, melodic alterations, riffs, vibrato, straight tone, texture changes, and others. Before you know it, you'll be making choices that are 100% original and discovering a sound that is truly your own! Once you know you can CHOOSE it, you'll never LOSE it!
Singing with ACCOMPANIMENT can be tricky for some singers. If you struggle with Rhythms, make sure to listen for the DOWNBEAT in the Accompaniment. That's the first strong beat of the measure. Look at your music to see which words fall on this strong beat to guide you. If you struggle with Pitch, there are often clues in the Accompaniment. See if you can locate your Pitch somewhere in the Accompaniment before you sing. Often the piano or another instrument will "double" your melody. This can be very helpful for staying in tune. Mostly, though, remember the Accompanist should follow YOU. You shouldn't follow the Accompanist. Knowing these truths will help you sing with more confidence and not second-guess yourself as a musician!
Artists are people who love to think OUTSIDE the box! But, what if we jump back IN for a second? Being systematic, deliberate, and intentional in the way we approach practices, rehearsals, or performances can be a game-changer for our vocal life. First, identify the exact TASK you're about to undertake (exercise, song, etc.). Second, define the GOAL of that task. Thirdly, ask yourself HOW this goal will be achieved through techniques, repetition, or experimentation. And finally, MONITOR the progress of your goal as you work and stay focussed on moving toward it. All of this sounds pretty simple. And, kind of boring too. However, the lack of a strategic approach often robs artists of the improvement and success they're looking for. So, if your vocal progress is a bit slow these days... Get back IN the box!
Will the Music Industry decide your destiny or will YOU decide? Answering this question will likely determine whether you have what it takes to make it as a professional artist. Many performers have a "wait and see" attitude when it comes to their career. They go into the industry hoping someone will notice them, discover them, or "make them" an artist. In contrast, there are artists who already KNOW that they are artists - regardless of whether they ever get the jobs they want. They don't need the industry's approval. Their singing and their craft are just "who they are". Ironically, these artists who do it for the pure LOVE of their craft, without worrying about the results, usually have the greatest success. So, dig deep and consider the artist you really are in your heart and soul. If you know this, you won't have to find your destiny. Your destiny will find YOU!
Don't know much about HISTORY? Well, there's no time like the present! Think of one artist who inspires you. Have you ever researched an artist who inspired THEM? Or, maybe even researched the artists who inspired THAT artist? It could go on and on. However, there's tremendous value in seeking out this type of musical history. This discipline reveals a wealth of artists, songs, styles, and information that can be used to enrich your vocal and musical life! Go to the library or go online and start investigating. Find interviews of artists you admire. Read biographies, autobiographies, or books on fascinating music history topics. Listen to recordings from a specific year or decade. If you take this journey to the past, you'll become an artist brimming with appreciation, nuance, depth, and soul! And who knows? You might even make history YOURSELF!
Have you explored every nook and cranny of your voice? While it's never wise to push your voice, it's actually a great idea to occasionally explore your voice's EXTREMES. Have you found the highest possible note in your Head Voice? What about your lowest possible note near your Vocal Fry? You also might consider volume. Experiment with your loudest and softest volumes. How about Larynx height? Have you felt the sensation of your highest and squeakiest Larynx? How about your lowest and hollowest Larynx? Knowing the extremes of your voice is one of best ways to improve your technique and artistry. Almost all of our singing is done in the middle of all these extremes. However, understanding extremes will help you to make the more nuanced adjustments that your technique needs!
Use your inhale to SET UP your vowels! Each vowel creates a unique pattern of resonance and a unique airflow pathway. So why not breathe in the shape of the vowel you're about to sing? This saves you time and energy because when you're ready to exhale, your instrument is already in the perfect position. You won't have to use that precious moment between inhaling and exhaling to get your entire vocal apparatus into the right position. Practice this on all different vowels by making the shape of the vowel first, then inhaling, and then singing. When it comes to breathing and resonance - it always helps to be prepared!
Your RIBS and your BELLY are the keys to great breathing for singing and life. However, many singers hold a lot of tension in these areas without even realizing it. Are your ribs not expanding properly when you take a breath? Then try some side stretches! Reach your arms to the sky and then reach them from side-to-side while breathing the ribcage open. Is your belly tight when you inhale or are your abs overly developed? Then try a backbend or a nice Cobra pose! As you lengthen your abdominal region, breathe open your belly. These stretches not only feel fantastic, but they also help your breathing to become everything you want it to be - deep, effortless, and natural!
Consider the tools that artists use to create. A painter uses paint. A potter uses clay. A carpenter uses wood. So, what do singers use to create? A MULTITUDE of vocal tools! These tools include vibrato, straight tone, breathiness, rasp, larynx positions, mouth shape, tongue positions, twang, nasal resonance, volume, diction, and register shifts. And this is just to name a few! So, be creative as a Vocal Creator. Experiment, explore, and exaggerate. Take risks, take liberties, and take Joy! You'll be surprised what amazing, unique, and soulful sounds you can make. You won't end up with a painting, a pot, or a table. But, you'll discover what it means to be a vocal artist with your own creative STYLE!